NORTH BEND — With an overpowering presence, Willamette was the latest top-10 team in the state to get a win over North Bend.
“There’s a reason they are the No. 7 team in the state,” said North Bend head coach Bill Callaway. The Wolverines are one of four teams in the Midwestern League ranked in the top 11 in state.
On Tuesday night the Wolverines used high volume shooting — Willamette had 26 more shot attempts than North Bend — and a defensive game plan to walk away with a 69-44 win.
Before the Wolverines pulled away, it was a shooting contest between North Bend’s Brady Messner and Willamette’s Luke Smith to start the game. Messner scored the first nine points for the Bulldogs on three 3-pointers and Smith had the opening seven points for the Wolverines.
“He was just looking for his shot more and taking it. He was back a little bit more than normal. His work ethic and practice and believing tonight, we’ll take that,” said Callaway on his junior scorer. “He needs to shoot for us to put points on the board.”
Messner and Smith went back and forth throughout the opening period. Smith shot four-of-10 for the quarter for nine points while Messner was was four-of-five from the field for 11 points. Smith finished the game with 22 and Messner 20.
With Messner on fire, Willamette’s game plan shifted. The new plan was to slow down No. 11.
“I wasn’t surprised who was hot. We knew he could play, we knew he could shoot, we just didn’t do a good job of making sure it was contested and making sure he didn’t get the ball back,” said Willamette head coach Chad Carpenter of Messner.
While still finding glimmers of daylight, Messner was hounded throughout the rest of the game.
“Yeah, they were playing super tight defense and I couldn’t even get the ball sometimes,” said Messner. “I was trying everything to get it and they were playing good pressure on me the whole entire time so that was a challenge.”
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The Bulldogs were hanging tough throughout the second quarter and trailed 24-22 before the Wolverines knocked down a pair of 3-pointers before halftime to go take a 30-22 lead to the locker room. After the break, Willamette picked up where it left off with back-to-back buckets that gave the team a 34-22 lead. North Bend never got within 10 points again.
“They hit a couple of 3’s and that seemed to be what spurred them in the third quarter, too. That happens and it’s a big boost for them and maybe a little letdown for us,” said Callaway.
Willamette had four players in double-figures — Smith, Jose Yanez with 12, Caleb Burke 11 and Joe Brown 10 — but the third quarter scoring started with Tyler Moffat.
Moffat shot the ball three times in the entire game, all in the opening minutes of the second half where he was three-for-three for seven points that contributed to a 22-6 Willamette scoring run.
A boon to Willamette’s offense was the team’s defense that helped create 19 North Bend turnovers. Willamette finished with six turnovers and outrebounded North Bend 30-23.
“I didn’t know we took care of the ball that well. I would have expected more turnovers, we were a little sloppy still, but we definitely wanted to extend our pressure,” said Carpenter. “(Give ourselves) a chance to where we can turn them over but at least we’re going to tire them out in that fourth quarter and maybe the legs are on our side.”
North Bend’s Garrison Mateski, Maddox Mateski, John Burgmeier and Chase Platt all finished with five points.
With the loss, the Bulldogs fell to 2-15 on the season and are still seeking their first league victory. On Friday North Bend travels to Ashland before facing a winless Eagle Point side on Saturday.
“Hopefully we get a win,” Messner said of the upcoming road trip. “Our first league win of the season, that’s the goal.”